Is Austria About to Become Israel’s Top Ally in Europe?
The Austrian Foreign Minister lambasted the EU for its supposedly “too strict” policy towards Israel.
Karin Kneissl also said that her country would take the lead to “inject realism” into the bloc’s ties with Tel Aviv, arguing that “Israel is often held to a higher standard than other countries.” The diplomat has personal and political reasons for positioning herself as Israel’s champion in the EU. The first concerns her desire for Israel to remove its boycott of her for her affiliation with the Freedom Party that’s been accused of anti-Semitism because of its Nazi roots, while the second relates to Vienna’s vision of becoming a separate pole of influence in an increasingly fractured post-Brexit EU, particularly in the Central & Eastern European “Three Seas” space that comprises part of its former imperial domain.
Geopolitical analyst Adam Garrie drew important attention earlier this year to how Israel is courting the countries of this region while Iran’s doing the same with the rest of Europe, which continues a trend that’s been ongoing for some time. The Western European states have much more influence in the EU than the other ones do, which is why their public stance towards Israel has hitherto become the bloc’s. These countries are desperately trying to save the Iranian nuclear deal and occasionally criticize Israel for its illegal settlements in the West Bank, while the Central & Eastern European ones are usually quiet about these issues. Accordingly, Austria saw an opportunity to become Israel’s main lobbyist in the continent.
Despite priding itself on being a supposedly “neutral” country along the likes of Switzerland, Austria is gambling that its pro-Israeli pivot could lead to the tiny country punching well above its diplomatic weight in European affairs if it’s successful in getting the bloc to curtail its criticism of the “Jewish State” and distance itself from the BDS groups that Tel Aviv accuses it of funding. In parallel with this, it’s also notable that the Austrian Chancellor met with Soros over the weekend to discuss relocating the Color Revolution financier’s “Central European University” from his native Budapest to Vienna, which carries with it the optics of providing “refuge” for the billionaire’s pet project that he claims is being targeted for “anti-Semitic” reasons.
Last but certainly not least, Austria currently holds the EU’s rotating six-month presidency until the end of the year, meaning that Vienna veritably has agenda-setting powers that could therefore place the bloc on the course of developing a more pro-Israeli policy by 2019 that would dovetail with the US’ own. Like with all policy pivots, however, this might be a lot easier said than done and could certainly come up against a lot of resistance from the EU’s Western European leaders, thereby widening the bloc’s East-West divisions even more in the process. Regardless of how everything plays out, there’s an unmistakable irony in the fact that the country responsible for Adolf Hitler is now trying to be Israel’s top European ally.
Top Photo: Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Oriental Review